Zach Hendrikson was recently named the head coach of the Simley High School baseball team. Hendrikson grew up in Inver Grove Heights playing youth baseball in the Inver Grove Heights Baseball Association, graduated from South Saint Paul High School, played college baseball at Luther College, and now, is back to lead the Spartans baseball program.
Hendrikson, who is also a fourth grade teacher at Woodbury Elementary school, spent some time with IGHBA talking about his new job, baseball, coaching, and the path that led him to becoming a head coach and teacher. Read below to hear what Hendrikson has to say about this opportunity, and what others have to say about him:
IGHBA: Congrats on the head coaching job. What is it like to be able to take over the Simley baseball program and lead a program in the same hometown where you grew up?
ZH: To be able to take over a program that helped shape me as a baseball player is a dream come true. Though I did not play my high school baseball at Simley, the Inver Grove Heights Baseball Association played a large role in my development as a player and now a coach. I am looking forward to the opportunity to give back to the program that gave me so much and to hopefully give future players as much as the program gave me. In addition to being able to give back to the baseball program of Inver Grove Heights, it is exciting for me to be able to give back to the community. I plan on getting my team involved in IGH in more than just a baseball aspect. I want our boys to be active not only in the IGHBA, but in our community as well. I think that is what I am looking forward to most, is the chance to make a positive impact in this community in a bigger way than coaching a baseball team.
IGHBA: What are some opportunities you see in this role, to help grow Simley baseball and the young men involved with the program?
ZH: The biggest opportunity I see within this role is to re-establish Simley baseball as a well-respected baseball program. It’s important to understand that this process is going to take time, and that our program is not going to be focused on our win/loss record. We will be seen as successful and respected if we play the game fundamentally sound, and give the game the respect it deserves. I plan to establish a culture within the program where it is expected that we get better each day. Though we may not see the improvements day in and day out, it’s important for the players and fans of Simley baseball to not lose sight of the big picture…postseason play. If we take the steps to be more successful every day, we will take care of ourselves come sections and hopefully state playoffs. In addition to creating a successful baseball program, my biggest role for these young men is to be a mentor and to give them the tools be successful off the baseball field. It is important that we as a program and coaching staff are creating good men, and then good baseball players.
IGHBA: You have played a lot of baseball, including in college at Luther College, a DIII program in Decorah, IA. What did you learn in college baseball that can help you as a high school baseball coach?
ZH: During my time at Luther, I was fortunate enough to be part of the rebuilding of the program. My first year at Luther, I think we had somewhere along the lines of 13 wins in a 40-game season and did not make postseason play. By the time I was a senior at Luther, we won over 30 games, broke every offensive record in school history, played in the national tournament, and statistically will go down as the best team in Luther College history.
During these four years, I learned what it takes to turn around a program and the expectations players need to be held to, in order to achieve the expectations laid out by the team and the coaching staff. In addition to experiencing the culture first hand, I also obtained an understanding of the steps we need to take to be successful on the field. Starting with the bare basics of baseball and building off each skill set perfected the day before. Understanding and experiencing the culture change and coaching change through the rebuilding process gives me first-hand experience and understanding of what needs to take place at Simley for this program to get back on the right track.
IGHBA: What are the keys to building a successful program and what are you hoping to do as coach? How can partnering with the IGHBA help that long-term development?
ZH: First things first, I want to be able to change the culture so we are not looked at as successful or not based on how many wins we had. I want to be seen as successful if we are taking steps forward from the previous year, and whether or not we are playing the game the correct way. For this to take place, we need to get back to a fundamental approach to baseball starting with something as simple as the proper way to play catch, and how we are going to take care of our equipment. These are the building blocks of being successful. In addition to changing the culture and how we are doing this from a baseball standpoint, we need players and parents to buy into our approach. This will only work if we have the trust and support from everyone involved. What I plan to do with the IGHBA is become more of a prominent figure within the youth association. Start to develop relationships with the younger players in order to keep them playing baseball and to develop trust with myself as a coach so when they get to the varsity level, they know what to expect and they know that I want nothing but the absolute best for all of my players. By partnering with the IGHBA, we will begin to have a “trickle-down” effect of culture and expectations of Inver Grove baseball. This does nothing but help the varsity program in the long run when players will begin to understand how they should carry themselves when representing IGH baseball and what to expect when they play varsity baseball in the future.
IGHBA: What are you doing now, outside of coaching?
ZH: When I am not on the baseball diamond you can find me in the classroom. I have recently accepted my first full time teaching job at Woodbury Elementary school in a 4th grade classroom. Prior to taking the head coaching position at Simley, I was an assistant coach at St. Croix Preparatory Academy (2016-2017) coaching under Rich Dippel. In addition to coaching at St. Croix Prep, I have been the head Legion coach in South Saint Paul since the summer of 2015 where I have had the opportunity to coach a handful of Simley baseball players and now alumni. I have also been an instructor at the Packer Baseball Academy in South Saint Paul for the past three years while also working with high school-aged players in the off-season. I am also fortunate enough to still be playing the game I love and I am currently finishing up my 6th season with the Stockmen’s Irish (2012-present) and we are on our way to yet another state tournament this year.
IGHBA: Who and what molded you to become a teacher and a head baseball coach?
ZH: I want to give Rich Dippel a big shout out. That man has been a mentor, a coach, a friend, and someone to keep me on the right path. He has taught me more about myself as a coach and player than most people will in my life time and I owe a lot of my success to the teachings that came from him. He gave me a chance by adding me to his coaching staff last year and taught me how to make the transition from being a player to a coach and how to look at things differently. Without Rich Dippel, I wouldn’t be where I was currently and I want to say thank you to him from the bottom of my heart. In addition to Rich, I want to say thank you to my mother, Cathy. For driving me to and from practices, driving five hours round to trip to watch me play a ball game, always being there for me, and more importantly, for being the most of influential coach I ever had. She taught me how to be a respectable young man, how to work hard for what I want, and most importantly she gave me the tools to get what I wanted. So, thank you mom and thank you Rich, without the two of you…I wouldn’t be the player, coach, or young man that I am today.
Read what others are saying about Zach Hendrikson
Bryan Nikkel, Head Baseball Coach, Luther College
“Zach has a great passion for baseball, but more importantly, an ever great passion for helping kids develop into great young men. He is a true baseball guy that has great perspective on the process of developing kids. Zach was a great player for us here at Luther and played an integral role in us winning the 2016 IIAC tournament championship and advancing us to the NCAA tournament as part of a team that won 34 games (school record). Zach was a true utility guy for us so he will bring great knowledge to many different areas on the field.”
Rich Dippel, Activities Director/Head Baseball Coach, St. Croix Preparatory Academy
“Zach loves baseball – while he played other sports, Zach has always been a baseball guy first He studies the game and he loves to compete in the game. He has a strong understanding of the game – Zach was a catcher in high school and his formative years. As a catcher you learn the whole game and not just one part of it. He has a very good understanding of defensive positioning, defensive shifts, and rotations, pitching, and outfield play.
Zach worked hard to become a solid offensive player. Some players are just natural hitters. And while Zach has some of that, he also worked very hard at understanding hitting and what makes a hitter successful. You combine all of that with a natural ability to teach and you end up with a good coach. Zach is a professional educator. He has been professionally trained to help young people learn. By combining great understanding, professional training, and a burning passion to be successful and build a baseball program you have a really great leader for the Simley baseball program. Even though he was only with us one year, Zach left his mark on my program here at SCPA.”
Simley Athletics Director Will Short
“Zach is a professional educator that has a great understanding in educational based athletics. Zach has a great understanding of the fundamentals of baseball and has expectations for our athletes. Zach is hard working and direct. He has proven he can build a team into a cohesive unit. He has developed young men that have a strong work ethic. He brings a young fun energy to baseball at Simley.”
Zach Hendrikson profile – at SSP HS
Three-year letter winner…four-year letter winner in baseball, three times in hockey and twice in soccer while at South St. Paul High…Classic Suburban Conference all-conference selection in baseball and soccer…helped lead Packers’ to the section semifinals in baseball…academic all-state honoree…member of the National Honor Society…son of Randy and Cathy Hendrikson.
Zach Hendrikson at Luther College
Played 1B and C
Batting average – .275
RBI – 53
HR – 5
Runs – 44
Hits – 80
2B – 15
At Bats – 291
Games Played – 95
Put outs – 241
Assists – 26
Errors – 6
Fielding Percentage – .978